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Allen Adamson

Co-Founder & Managing Partner

Former Landor Chairman/Brand Strategy Guru

Brands Celebrating Women Every Day, Not Just On March 8th, Will Grow Their Businesses, Not Check A PR Box 

I have a friend who told me she doesn’t send her mother Mother’s Day cards. Her mother’s attitude is that a pretty card, although a nice gesture, isn’t a substitute for a year’s worth of appreciation. While I know for a fact that my friend absolutely appreciates her mother, this little anecdote kind of sums up how I feel about the reaction of marketers and brands to International Women’s Day.

This March 8th event is intended to celebrate women's cultural, political, social, and economic achievements and raise awareness of and rally around gender equality. While International Women's Day is not a new initiative, it continues to take on greater significance each year. Consider the cultural phenomenon of Barbenheimer that hit movie theaters this past summer. The unlikely mash-up of the more female-targeted Barbie movie with the mass-targeted (albeit more male) Oppenheimer led to Barbie grossing $1.4 billion to become Warner Bros largest box office earner in history and surpassing Universal's Oppenheimer.


The popularity of the Barbie movie was inspiring on many levels. But to set aside one day to celebrate the long-fought and hard-won achievement of women, be it in politics, business, or the entertainment world, is, in my opinion, disingenuous.

Yes, it's a nice gesture that many marketers have created touching and motivational ads and promotions linking their brands to International Women's Day. This year includes launching the women's lifestyle brand Spanx's first-ever global campaign, "We Live in Spanx," centered around the many roles women often juggle at once and spotlighting the brand's apparel offerings. And there's Athleta's purpose-driven "Find Your Movement" campaign that focuses on female athletes like gymnast Simone Biles and professional triathlete Katie Zaferes, along with other athletes seen performing in their, it’s a nice gesture that many marketers have created touching and motivational ads and promotions linking their brands to International Women’s Day.


Among past examples, Nike’s powerful “there’s no wrong way to be a woman,” spot, Mattel’s launch of 17 role-model Barbie dolls honoring women of achievement, including Amelia Earhart, NASA mathematician, Katherine Johnson, and Olympic snowboarder, Chloe Kim. And, also, the McDonald’s campaign lauding the myriad women entrepreneurs who own its franchises. Linking a brand to a social cause or a higher purpose is now and always has been a good thing. Brands should want to connect with consumers in a way that resonates beyond a specific product or service. These days, more and more, people want to know about the values of the brand before they opt in as consumers of the brand. 


My belief, however, is that the brands that will do the best in any linkage are those that do not see these causes or purposes as a 24-hour promotional opportunity, but as a long-term business strategy. Actually, make that a holistic social and cultural strategy. We are, after all, talking about gender equality. Why one day? What about the other 364 days?  


One of my favorite examples of a brand is Wolverine Boots and Apparel's new effort. "Woman-Made," their 90-second video on the accomplishments of women in the skilled trades combines person-on-the-street interviews about the term "woman-made." It highlights female figures in the trades, including the woman who oversaw the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, the inventor of the circular saw, and others.

In an era in which every brand is trying to do the politically correct thing, to link itself to a higher purpose, consumers will perceive any short-term efforts as the short-term promotions they really are. This is especially true given our transparent marketplace and its increasingly skeptical population in which the value of authenticity cannot be overstated. To make a real contribution to social causes, brands must take the long view and build solutions around how they do business 365 days a year. In other words, don’t send a card. Show me you care every day. Provide proof of your awareness that gender equality is not simply a marketing opportunity, but how business should be done, and life should be lived, day in and day out.

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